“People Leaders”: How to Identify Them

MP900387733Want to know how “people-oriented” your organizational leaders are?  Here’s a quick and easy way to tell….

Step 1: Approach a leader in your organization.


Step 2: Greet that leader


Step 3: Listen to the first 20-30 seconds of the leader’s interaction with you

By that point, it should be rather clear whether this is a “people-oriented” or a “systems/process-oriented” leader.  But in case not, let me elaborate a little….

Typically, impromptu interactions with executive leaders start off in one of three ways.  If the leader immediately starts talking about their day, their meetings, or their own challenges, this often points to a leader more concerned about his/her standing and the perceptions of others toward them as leaders.  These are what I refer to as “Me Leaders.”

Cogs_v2A second typical way leadership interactions progress is when the leader quickly shifts to asking about projects on which you’re working.  That’s what I’d label “Systems/Process Leaders.”

And the third way executives sometimes interact is to immediately inquire about your personal life, e.g., “How’s the family?” or “How is your education going?” or something else “non-work” related.  This is an example of a “People Leader.”

Now, most of us would probably avoid leaders who fell into the “Me Leader” category.  There something much more appealing about a humble leader more concerned with nearly anything BUT self-promotion than the egotistical leader.

But the “Systems/Process Leader” and the “People Leader” are both potentially viable and positive descriptors.  In other words, both have their place and both can be very valuable.  For me, though, I’d rather have a “People Leader,” and here’s why…

In most environments, there’s always time to turn to the operational leadership issues after first inquiring about one’s followers’ well-being.  As much as we emphasize crises in the corporate world, from an 11-year military veteran’s perspective, there are almost never true crises in the corporate world.  So, why wouldn’t leaders first and foremost want to understand how someone they are leading is on a personal level?  After all, an individual’s ability to fully engaging in a particular undertaking in the workplace is directly impacted by the extent to which their home and family lives are “intact.”  But more importantly, a leader who is inherently concerned primarily with his or her people will build genuine trust and loyalty (two essential components of engagement), translating to greater work productivity.

team-of-rivalsSo, given the choice, I would always choose a “People Leader.”  After all, it’s much easier to teach  about processes and systems than it is to instill true caring character in a leader.  And caring about your followers is the key to ultimate and sustained success in any organization.

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